Maldives sides with Saudis to cut ties with Iran

The Maldives has joined its key financial backer Saudi Arabia in cutting diplomatic ties with Iran

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The Maldives has joined its key financial backer Saudi Arabia in cutting diplomatic ties with Iran, accusing it of undermining peace and security in the Gulf region.

The Maldives foreign ministry said policies that Iran were pursing in the Middle East were “detrimental to peace and security in the region”, without giving details.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, the ministry said it was severing ties because stability in the Gulf was “also linked to stability, peace and security of the Maldives”.

The politically troubled Indian Ocean archipelago officially established diplomatic ties with Iran in 1975, although neither has an embassy or consulate in the other’s country.

However last month Maldives President Abdulla Yameen received Iran’s new ambassador to the Indian Ocean region, Mohammed Zaeri Amirani, who is based in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo.

After that meeting, Yameen said he hoped the two countries could strengthen ties and that the Maldives, made up of 340,000 Sunni Muslims, could start importing oil from Iran -- the Middle East’s foremost Shiite power.

Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim power, has recently stepped up financial support for the Maldives by pledging $50 million in funding for a military housing project on the island nation, the Maldivesindependent.com website reported.

Male was also seeking $100 million from Riyadh for an expansion of its main airport, the local news website said.

The Maldives has tarnished its reputation as an upmarket honeymoon destination in recent years because of prolonged political unrest and a crackdown on opponents.

In January Saudi Arabia and Iran severed diplomatic relations. Riyadh cut ties with Tehran after Iranian demonstrators burned its embassy and a consulate following the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.